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Mixed results on Indiana police body camera law signed by Mike Pence

Donald Trump's pick for vice president, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, dipped his toe into the fraught debate over police shootings when he signed a bill in March that some say limits public access to police body camera footage.

In the wake of a police shooting of an Indianapolis man in 2015, Pence signed House Bill 1019 that increased regulation of law enforcement recordings.

But the law comes with added financial pressures for strapped police departments.

Already two departments in Indiana have told CBS News that they have stopped their body camera programs because the new law imposes too many costs on departments.

"Right now, we don't have the manpower or the budget to meet the law's requirements for storage, retention, and redaction," Assistant Chief David Kirby of the Clarksville Police Department said. "We can't afford to do it at all."

DOJ to fund $20M police body camera program 02:12

Pence's office declined to comment and referred any questions about the bill to the bill's author, Indiana State Representative Kevin Mahan.

Mahan's office provided a statement, "I am confident that this bipartisan legislation addresses the concerns of the public while not placing unnecessary restrictions on local law enforcement agencies."

The law requires the departments to store video and audio footage for at least 190 days, which can be costly.

It also requires that police learn how to operate image-altering software in order to blur out minors, nudity, or a witness to the crime.

Mark Wood, formerly a captain at the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, told CBS News that with some body camera technology, obscuring the images could take hours and as many as 10 officers away from their regular patrol duties.

Under the new law, police departments that are using cameras can decide whether or not to release the footage and can deny access if the department determines that releasing footage would not be in the public interest.

If denied, the requester can file a petition, and if approved, the agency must allow the requester to watch the video within 30 days.

The law, which went into effect two weeks ago, already has some critics.

"It's better than not having a law at all, but there are restrictions that make viewing the footage very difficult," Tony Mason, President and CEO of the Indianapolis Urban League, said.

For example, Mason says, an individual can watch a recording at least twice in the presence of a law enforcement officer, but the law doesn't guarantee more than two viewings. During these viewings, the person can't copy or record the footage. There's also a fee of up to $150 for a copy of the footage.

"A lot of the people who are in these situations cannot afford to buy even one video, and often times, there is more than one video because there's more than one officer present," Ethan Evans of Indy10, a Black Lives Matter group in Indianapolis, told CBS News.

The law comes after Indianapolis citizen Mack Long was shot on April 12, 2015 by an Indianapolis police officer who was wearing a body camera. The officer's camera was part of the department's pilot program to test out body camera technology.

After Long fled the scene of a traffic stop, a pursuing officer shot him.

A grand jury decided not to indict the officer, and afterwards the department released segments of the footage from the officer's body camera.

The widow of the man who was shot, Debbie Long, told a local radio show she asked for the full video but was denied her request. She was also critical of the body camera bill signed by Pence.

"We definitely want to be able to see enough of the footage to know that [the Indianapolis Police Department] is being transparent with their investigation, with their story, and with what they're putting out there about our loved one, and that's something we didn't get with this bill," she said.

After Indianapolis finished its trial use of the body cameras, department officials determined the cost was too great, and they stopped using them, according to Indianapolis officer Jim Gillespie.

Gillespie said the department, the largest in the state, wants to use body cameras but the bill signed by Pence will make it more expensive to do so.

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